The importance of the Community Shield as a competition remains open to interpretation, but Sunday’s clash between Chelsea and Manchester City feels like a significant one nonetheless.
For starters, it will give us the first taste of Maurizio Sarri’s Blues compared to Antonio Conte’s, and an indication of how far away they are from competing with last season’s Premier League champions.
For Pep Guardiola’s side, it’s a curious encounter too. Will they be as relentlessly rampant as they were last season, or will City once again struggle to muster up a strong title defence? The Community Shield at Wembley should at least provide some hints to help answer that question, so here’s a look at everything you need to know before kickoff…
In Premier League terms, Chelsea’s dominance of this fixture once showed no end. In fact, the Blues lost just two of the first 24 meetings between the two teams in the Premier League, with many of those encounters even predating Roman Abramovich’s purchase of the club in 2003.
Since City were overtaken by their own ludicrously rich owners in 2008 though, the balance of this fixture has completely changed – it’s the Sky Blues who’ve won nine of the last 18, losing only six.
As far as Community Shields go, the tale of the tape is a little more even. While Chelsea are slightly more experienced in English football’s curtain raiser, City have won the same number of Community Shield honours from two less attempts, leaving them with a slightly superior win rate. Will that matter on Sunday though? After all, City have reached completely new heights as a club under Guardiola.
Sarri and Guardiola’s only two meetings as managers came in the Champions League last season and both were thrilling encounters, a 2-1 win for City at the Etihad Stadium followed by a six-goal affair in Naples. The absence of any clean sheets is evidence of how both managers like to play the game – creating incredibly offensive, imaginative teams operating within the framework of 4-3-3.
So far though, that mantra has proved far more successful for Guardiola than his now-Chelsea counterpart. Sarri’s a classic case of being critically acclaimed but lacking the success to match it, still awaiting the first major trophy of his career. The City gaffer, meanwhile, sits on a career haul of 14.
Neither side lost a Premier League fixture with Jonathan Moss in charge last season but they won’t have that luxury on Sunday – even if the scores are level at full-time, it will then be decided by a penalty shootout.
Overall though, Moss is certainly one of the Premier League’s more controversial referees. In fact, it was reported in April that Moss had made 13 game-changing mistakes during his first 22 outings of the season, and that’s not surprising when looking at his statistics from 2017/18.
From the 21 referees to officiate in the Premier League last term, he ranked in the top six for fouls per tackle, fouls per game, yellow cards per game and penalties per game – and some of those rankings would have been even higher had a handful of new officials not been called up for one top flight outing each at the end of the campaign.
Clearly then, Moss is quick to blow his whistle and although he’ll perhaps take a more relaxed approach for Sunday’s clash, it’s something both teams will need to bear in mind. The glorified friendly status of the Community Shield didn’t stop Pedro being sent off in last season’s Wembley clash.
It’s always hard to tell exactly how a team will line up in their first semi-competitive game under a new manager, but it’s incredibly unlikely N’Golo Kante, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Willian will take part. While some are still recovering from late participation in the World Cup, others more worryingly appear to be heading for the exit door.
That could see Callum Hudson-Odoi take up Hazard’s spot in attack, cutting inward from the left-hand side. The 17-year-old has been nothing short of electric in pre-season and with Willian potentially moving on this summer, there’s an obvious gap for him in the squad to fill. Sunday’s game feels like an important test.
The defence will likely stay in tact from Chelsea’s last outing against Arsenal, perhaps with the exception of Andreas Christensen replacing David Luiz or Antonio Rudiger at the heart of the backline, while Chelsea’s midfield will be built around Jorginho’s ability to orchestrate from deep pockets.
Kante will obviously be one of the first names on the team sheet when he’s back, but on Sunday we’re predicting Ross Barkley and Tiemoue Bakayoko to start in front of him with Cesc Fabregas out injured.
Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling won’t be involved on Sunday, but apart from that City should be back to something close to full strength. Left-back Benjamin Mendy will be keen to make a big impression after missing much of last season, and Leroy Sane should be raring to go just in front of him following the German international’s shock World Cup omission.
Perhaps the only surprise call-up comes in the form of Eric Garcia. Much like Hudson-Odoi, he’s been the shining light of City’s pre-season so far – small and slender for a defender yet never allowing that to affect his ability to marshal some top-quality opposition.
Bernardo Silva, who Transfermarkt value at £45million, could get the nod in the position many see as the best fit for him long-term, after spending his debut campaign at the Etihad Stadium out on the wing. In Kevin De Bruyne’s absence, the Portuguese could partner David Silva in central midfield, with summer signing Riyad Mahrez occupying the wide right berth instead.